The concept that lifespan is a function of the capacity to withstand extrinsic stress is very old. In concordance with this, long-lived individuals often have increased resistance against a variety of stresses throughout life. Genes underlying the stress response may therefore have the ability to affect lifespan. The progress in modern genetic techniques has allowed researchers to test this idea. The general stress response involves the expression of stress proteins, such as chaperones and antioxidative proteins, downregulation of genes involved in energy metabolism and the release of protective substances. Do these same changes in patterns of expression have the ability to mitigate ageing and prolong lifespan? It appears that parts of this response indeed are also associated with extended longevity, whereas some elements are not, due to their high cost or long-term deleterious consequences. Here we briefly review the state of the art of research on ageing and longevity in the model organism Drosophila, with focus on the role of the general stress response. We will conclude by contemplating some of the implications of the findings in this research and will suggest several directions for future research.